Cooking With Kids: Easy, Nostalgic Thanksgiving Stew

Thanksgiving Stew, claims Josie Ortega, is a simple vegetable beef stew recipe that will bring communities together to celebrate a nostalgic holiday full of gratitude.

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Easy, Nostalgic Thanksgiving Stew

While hosts and serious chefs focus on planning the big Thursday meal and getting the traditional Thanksgiving dishes just right, the reality remains that we’ve all still got to eat in the days leading up to and following the fourth Thursday in November.

At this time of year, my mind—or maybe my stomach—reliably craves the vegetable beef stew I ate as a child. Even more powerful than the taste memory, the smell of what we called “Indian Stew” takes me straight back to elementary school. In fact, my mom originally acquired the simple Thanksgiving Stew recipe from one of our annual grade school traditions.


Easy, Nostalgic Thanksgiving Stew

Ahead of the holiday, each family received a note home with an ingredient assignment, and brought one of the following to school on the day of the big Thanksgiving program:

  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Lima beans
  • Carrots
  • V8 Juice
  • You’ll also use salt, pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce if you have it!

As in the story Stone Soup, what begins as nothing becomes something greater—and more delicious—than the sum of its parts. And here’s how to put it together:

Thanksgiving Stew

Assign ingredients to guests for a nostalgic Thanksgiving community meal!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people
Calories 558 kcal


  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs ground beef
  • 4-5 carrots
  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 1 package lima beans frozen
  • 1 bag corn frozen bag
  • 32 oz V8 Juice
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • Cholula Hot Sauce (or other favorite hot sauce) to taste


Thanksgiving Stew

  • Dice onion.
  • Chop carrots potatoes into bite size pieces. My mom likes to use red potatoes and leave the skin on.
  • Brown onion in butter or olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot.
  • Add ground beef, breaking up as it cooks.
  • Pour in V8 juice.
  • Add carrots, potatoes, lima beans.
  • Season with salt and pepper, Cholula, and Worchestershire sauce.
  • Simmer until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes.
  • Finally, add frozen corn at the end.


Calories: 558kcalCarbohydrates: 31gProtein: 31gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 161mgPotassium: 1305mgFiber: 4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 4558IUVitamin C: 46mgCalcium: 65mgIron: 5mg
Keyword soup
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Serve and consume with gratitude! Thanksgiving Stew pairs especially nicely with cornbread. (Here’s a cornbread recipe that seems similar to my grandmother’s.)

Getting Everyone Involved

This Thanksgiving Stew is a fairly straightforward recipe that’s nice to have as an autumn and winter standard. But Thanksgiving Stew also lends itself to a little bit of fun cooking with kids. At the least, a young helper can dump ingredients into the pot. More capable sous chefs might cut potatoes and read the recipe to double-check that everything’s included.

You might assign ingredients and cook together if you find yourself in charge of a Thanksgiving class party or activity. (God bless you!) Thanksgiving Stew would also work well for a relaxed Friendsgiving where each guest can bring an ingredient, emphasizing the way everyone contributed to the meal.

Thanksgiving stew eating together

Thanksgiving Stew Memories

When I eat Thanksgiving Stew, I remember gathering in the school gymnasium to recite Thanksgiving poems, seeing the actual size of the Mayflower taped onto the gym floor, showing off our Pilgrim buckle hats.

My kids don’t necessarily have these exact same traditions… but we do have the stew. Let’s believe that when the kidscontribute and help with the cooking, they’ll be excited to eat the food, too! The aroma alone will put everyone in the right frame of mind to make turkey handprints.

My 5-year-old reported, “This is delicious soup, Mama!” (Disclosure: the 8-year old worked around the lima beans.) With either picky or adventurous eaters, we can express gratitude for the food we have, just like at the big Thanksgiving meal. We can talk about where each ingredient came from, about communities coming together, about celebrating that all of us have something to offer.

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